Kern counties is one of the largest undeveloped expanses in the Central Valley. This 250,000-acre area stretches for about 50 miles, flanked on the northeast by the Temblor Mountains and on the southwest by the Caliente Mountains. Caliente Mountain, the highest peak in San Luis Obispo County, stands 5,106 feet high, overshadowing Soda Lake at 1,900 feet elevation. Soda Lake is one of the largest remaining natural alkali wetlands in California.
This variety of environments provides habitat for a wide range of wildlife. From the diminutive fairy shrimp to the majestic tule elk, a carefully-planned trip with a dose of luck, can result in exceptional wildlife watching.
The Goodwin Education Center contains natural history displays and visitor information. You can also learn about the cultural history of the area, Painted Rock and the San Andreas Fault. The Goodwin Education Center is open December through May, Thursday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Picture: the Carrizo Plain in spring bloom.
Animals you may see here
- Rare and endangered animal species include the San Joaquin kit fox, San Joaquin antelope squirrel, giant kangaroo rat and blunt-nosed leopard lizard. The California Condor has been reintroduced nearby and may someday be seen again over the plain.
- Wintering raptors and sandhill cranes are major birding attractions. Mountain plovers, long-billed curlews and burrowing owls also occur. More than 175 bird species have been spotted.
- Tule Elk and pronghorn antelope have been reintroduced into the area and can be seen at various locations on the plain.
- From big to small, the many animals that call this area home fill long lists.
Photo: the endangered San Joaquin kit fox.
- Be sure to see tips for "Ultimate Wildlife Watching."
Viewing tips for this area
- Winter (especially December through February) brings sandhill cranes, wintering raptors, mountain plovers, long-billed curlews and fairy shrimp.
- Spring (March through May): tours are available for wildflower viewing, Soda Lake, Painted Rock, and San Andreas Fault.
- Year-round: many raptors and other animals can be seen all year.
- After dark: drive carefully and keep an eye out for kangaroo rats, pocket mice, and San Joaquin kit fox.
- The Carrizo Plain Natural Area is remote, hot in summer and does not have services like gasoline, food or water. Be prepared.
- Many of the roads are dirt and impassable in wet weather. Check road conditions before leaving home.
How to get here
North entrance: From State highway 58, turn south onto Soda Lake Road (35 miles east of Santa Margarita, or 45 miles west of Buttonwillow).
South entrance: From State Highway 166, turn north onto Soda Lake Road (70 miles east of Santa Maria, or 9 miles west of Maricopa).
Soda Lake, Elkhorn Plain, and Seven Mile roads combine to offer a 70-mile circular tour of the area. These roads are unpaved - check on road conditions before leaving home.
Goodwin Education Center: From State Highway 58, travel 14 miles south on Soda Lake Road, to the Center on Painted Rock Road. From State Highway 166, travel 30 miles north on Soda Lake Road, to Painted Rock Road.
Size: About 250,000 acres.
Managed by: Bureau of Land Management Bakersfield Field Office, The Nature Conservancy, and the California Department of Fish and Game manage this area jointly.
For more information, contact:
- Goodwin Education Center;
- or Bureau of Land Management, Bakersfield Field Office.
- Also visit the Bakersfield Field Office´s Carrizo Plain National Monument Web pages.
Site 72 in the California Wildlife Viewing Guide.
Watchable Wildlife Sites